REVIEWER: Brandon Jackson, director of finance and analytics at StoneGate.
BACKGROUND: StoneGate Senior Living provides support services to senior living and care properties that offer skilled health care, assisted living, memory support and independent living at locations in Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.
PLATFORMS: StoneGate runs Pentaho Business Intelligence 4 on Ubuntu Linux 11.04 with Java 1.6 hosted on two servers: Dell 2950 for the data warehouse and a second generic dual processor, dual-core server with eight gigs of RAM. Our data warehouse is MySQL and columnar DB on LucidDB. The application server is Tomcat 6.0. On the end-user side, individuals can connect via MAC, Windows or iPad.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Initially, StoneGate installed Pentaho as a labor management solution to track our vast workforce of hourly employees and keep them from incurring costly overtime. More recently, we added a Pentaho-based expense monitoring solution that tracks revenue and expense interplay for the six businesses – restaurants, activity centers, laundromat, maintenance, nursing and rehab – operating in each facility. We use Pentaho to make collages of summary financial information on the performance of each business in order to deliver the best quality of care and ensure that spending is in line.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Pentaho helps with all of our data extraction and back-end needs. Using Pentaho Data Integration, we pull data from seven different systems, including clinical and accounts receivable software, which has reduced keying and errors and allows us to assimilate multiple sources of information into popular reports and dashboards. We have the entire financial accounting system in Pentaho BI cubes with prepared content allowing end users to easily access and analyze their own data through Pentaho’s drag-and-drop Web interface. Through their own data discovery and an agile BI methodology, users can decide if it answers their questions or they can prompt IT to add more data to help refine their view.
STRENGTHS: Pentaho has all the tools to guide users through analytical frameworks to quickly gain their interest and gather feedback to develop a mature solution.
WEAKNESSES: Pentaho’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. There are a lot of moving pieces and technologies, so it’s impossible to be an expert at everything and hard to get people who are proficient from data to dashboards. This is not a problem for casual users interested in one focus, such as report design; however, in our situation, we need people who are knowledgeable about data access, user experience and interactivity. You must either communicate with people who have skills in all these areas or learn them yourself. We have taken several excellent training courses in these areas.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We selected Pentaho because it is both standards-driven and has the best technical innovation. Plus, it’s affordable - not a half-million-dollar package like traditional BI options. We also liked that there was an active community, involved product engineers and professional support and training.
DELIVERABLES: Pentaho allows us to capture insights on our business performance and then give real-time reports, charts or dashboards to interested business users. With the report designer, we can create a report, set it on a schedule, and it will automatically be sent to the appropriate managers. Pentaho allows us to create different dashboards that give all levels, from administrators and marketing to C-level executives, visibility into important data points, such as expenses and residents’ average stay, so they are able to balance their business and provide optimal quality of care in each facility. Pentaho mobile BI on iPad lets us pull up analytical information in real time, pass it around and get answers that match from a single data source.
VENDOR SUPPORT: We’ve found Pentaho to offer high quality support with a positive attitude for every situation both before and post-implementation. We have been impressed with the smooth process to help us reach our solution, whether that is with support tickets or by escalating important issues through calling in support or working with our sales rep.
DOCUMENTATION: My experience with documentation is mainly when we became a subscription customer in 2009, and it was a mixed bag and not easy to use. Using the documentation, you would be able to run the product, but when you try to make it your own, you may run into problems. There’s more documentation available now, and Pentaho is working internally to improve in this area.